Many of America’s scientific and technological advancements are developed through academic research at colleges and universities across the nation. Institutional research has historically been included in the mission of higher education and continues to benefit the academic enterprise as well as our economy. Nevertheless, there is a growing and vocal segment of the country that is sometimes skeptical about the value of the industry’s national and international contributions. Therefore, it is critical that we highlight the invaluable research that our nation’s colleges and universities are delivering through student learning and scientific progress.
For example, researchers at Furman University are committed to addressing today’s challenges while ensuring that students gain practical experience in a research setting. This year, professor of chemistry Greg Springsteen and Furman student Trent Stubbs filed two provisional patents for a synthetic chemical process that can diagnose cancer and bacterial infections more quickly than traditional methods while lowering the cost. Additionally, professors of physics Bill Baker and Paige Ouzts, at Furman University and Lander University, respectively, collaborated to create an optical glucometer—a device that “measures glucose levels by taking a specialized photo of the eye with sophisticated infrared sensors.” Today, diabetics around the world must use needles or other invasive tools to monitor their blood sugar, which can be painful and potentially dangerous, especially in impoverished areas. This new technology has the potential to revolutionize diabetes management for millions around the world.
Academic research has some unique characteristics: It combines inquiry, creativity, innovation, and discovery while providing opportunities for students to complement and contextualize their in-class education. It also benefits global communities by advancing our understanding of the world through science and the arts. Governing boards and administrators should understand the value of research to the broader community and communicate that value to policymakers, business leaders, and the public.
Governing board members are essential in preserving the reputation and purposes of academic research while ensuring that their institutions provide developmental opportunities for students and other stakeholders. For more information on the value of university research, listen to AGB’s podcast “Understanding the Power of Research.”
AGB believes that colleges and universities can demonstrate the value of higher education in all its forms. There are innumerable ways that boards can consider how colleges and universities might communicate the broad value of higher education. How might the board elevate these efforts at your own institution?